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Survival Kit for Insurance CIOs

By SiliconIndia   |   Friday, December 7, 2012
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Bangalore: Insurance CIOs are finding it hard to recuperate with the reigning fragile economy, be it from property and casualty sectors or from life and health segments. The falling interest rates, high credit limits and stringent regulations have apparently made the life of Insurance CIOs a nightmare. As such, it becomes all the more imperative for CIOs of this genre to hone their strategic skills by optimizing scarce resources in this technology-enabled sphere, reports Anthony O’Donnell of Insurance&Technology.

Contemporary Insurance CIOs have the ardent task of not only supporting growth and profitability but also the ever increasing regulatory demands while maintaining a constant check on their customers. Therefore, a few vital traits that are quintessential of a successful Insurance CIO are discussed below:

Being Optimistic: An insurance CIO needs to optimistic no matter how hard the operations get. Craig Weber, CEO of Celent, a research and consulting firm focused on the application of information technology in the global financial services industry, says in this regard, “The successful insurance CIO acts in a spirit of "optimism under pressure." Most CIOs have resources at their disposal -- not as many as they'd like, perhaps, but enough to make a big difference in their companies' performance.”

Effective Communication: A CIO needs to incorporate this particular trait if he doesn’t want his credibility and trust to crumble. He has to effectively put forward his targets, in align to the available resources to the board to avoid getting in to a precarious situation. Frank Petersmark, CIO Advocate at X by 2, a Systems Analysis and Engineering Consulting Services company, comments, “CIOs must be careful about how they communicate the complexity and effort required for enterprise wide IT initiatives. More CIOs than not get into trouble by oversimplifying what it will take to get something done; when things go awry, they've left themselves in a vulnerable position and risk damaging whatever hard-earned credibility they've attained.”

Get Acquainted with Business Operations: Steve Callahan, Practice Director at Robert E. Nolan Co., a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance, health care and banking industries, quips, “Know your business - that is the key to success in today's volatile world. Technology has always been complex, but the shift in complexity from the "hard" world of managing raised floors and data farms to information-driven "soft" technologies imposes an amplified demand for business acumen.” And that is something an Insurance CIO has to abide by.

Identifying Risk and Success Factors: An Insurance CIO also has to be intricate in his choice of projects and identify the risks associated with it and the potential chance of success at the same time. Stephen Applebaum, a senior analyst at Aite Group, a research and advisory firm lends his advice regarding the same. Applebaum was of the opinion, “Large-scale, cross-enterprise legacy integration projects have proven to be career makers for insurance CIOs. Transformation of IT units from maintenance departments to delivery and transformation organizations can be a prerequisite to such large-scale projects or can simply be important stand-alone successes.”

Evolve and Adapt: A CIO is also required to evolve from his traditional role of cost-cutting and apply himself to various quadrants of the business; using his strategic acumen to “to prioritize the allocation of scarce capital and IT resources for maximum competitive impact,” according to David Hollander, global insurance advisory leader of Ernst & Young LLP.”

Chief Insight Officer:Successful CIOs will be those who begin to think of their role more as the "chief insight officer" than the chief information officer. Over the next decade, CIOs will face a formidable challenge in making sure their organizations are positioned to capitalize on the explosion of information, all the new ways to interact, the hyper-connected world, and the host of options for sourcing IT services. But ultimately, the real challenge will be the ability to drive new insights to more effectively guide the business strategy and deliver competitive advantage,” says Deborah Smallwood, founder of SMA (Strategy Meets Action), a strategic advisory firm offering a unique blend of research, advisory and consulting services to both insurance companies and solution providers.

Thus, an Insurance CIO has to heed and cumulate the above mentioned qualities to ensure healthy growth and optimization of the business resources.

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